One of the most gregarious individuals you’ll meet walking the isles of INTEX Expo, Thomas E. Donnelly loves the wall and ceiling industry. With a career that has been 52 years and counting, this individual is a peer to the plaster greats Walt Pruter and J.R. “Dick” Gorman.
Donnelly Stucco, based in Minneapolis, has for four generations maintained a consistent outfit that serves the stucco industry. The Donnelly legacy was established in the 1920s when founder Bill Donnelly began his trade as a plaster tender in Santa Monica, Calif., practicing with a journeyman plaster at every opportunity. He realized the true meaning of the word “journeyman” when, at the age of 24, he and his wife Hannah moved through a succession of small towns searching for an opportunity to ply his trade.
Not long after settling in Strausberg, N.D., the Donnelly’s then began to look to Minneapolis as a more suitable location for a growing business. Bob Donnelly established the second generation in the business by converting a $50 loan into the founding investment for what would become Donnelly Stucco. Growing through the 1930s and flourishing over the next couple of decades, the subcontractor developed a highly respected name in its field. In 1964, Bob sold the firm to his oldest son Tom, who remains head of the company as it works through its seventh decade.
Today, the company specializes in old and new stucco, windows, moisture intrusion issues and more. According to its current CEO, Tom says business is booming right now.
“Restoration of homes and small buildings has been steady—allowing us to work the retail market,” Donnelly says.
In addition to his role with the company, Donnelly is also a member of AWCI, ASTM, ESGR and the Minneapolis Breakfast Club chapter.
Hot and Cold
The rest of the year outlook for the company, according to Donnelly, is busy with stucco until the winter freeze, he says, “Then we will focus on our window business.”
Given the company’s location in Minnesota, winter has to play a big part of the company’s business. Donnelly’s advice for cold weather plastering is simple: stay warm.
For decades, Donnelly has seen the industry wax and wane, and under normal business conditions, these can be exciting and trying times.
“We are blessed with so many opportunities in life but think of everyone else’s businesses that fell apart during the recession and we were able to chip through.”
The company knows what it does best and that’s stucco. Ask Donnelly about what innovations excite him in the industry, he simply says, “We just stay with conventional stucco.”
The self-confessed fan of country and western, Donnelly’s ultimate goal is to end up with a brand name that is extremely recognizable and that people trust. Looking forward to retirement though offering no concrete exit date, he says that some of his dedicated employees will eventually take over the company. And when that happens, Donnelly would like to visit London. He should, it’s a good city.